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Over the past few weeks, I’ve focused on staffing in the local church.  This series will focus primarily on assessing candidates who emerge for potential roles on your team.  There are four primary areas of assessment that are crucial in assessing someone for a position on our staff:

  1. Calling
  2. Character
  3. Capacity/Competency
  4. Culture/Compatibility

This series will provide understanding and tools associated with how we assess these individual areas.

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Assessing Character

A crucial step in assessing the calling of a candidate is investigating their character. Pastoral ministry requires godly character, and too many churches compromise when it comes to this issue.  While a candidate can be wildly impressive in their skills, if they lack Godly character, they cannot be qualified for ministry.

Character and The Bible

As we consider hiring in ministry, we must first take our cues from the Scripture, which outlines two particular offices: elders and deacons.

If we are hiring for a pastoral position, we take our cues from 1 Timothy 3:1-7:

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

For a non-pastoral position, we use 1 Timothy 3:8-13 as our guide:

Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

Now we realize that not every individual will fulfill these qualifications perfectly, but we desire to see a consistent pursuit of the qualities mentioned above from anyone we hire to be a part of our team.  We utilize a character assessment that asks directed questions consistent with these qualifications of every candidate. This character assessment is the first step in any serious consideration of a candidate.

Practical Considerations

With respect to character, we have found that there are a few key areas that we press into for inspection:

  • A clear and articulate knowledge of the gospel, and evidence that the gospel is still a truth that moves the individual.  The best question to ask is “when was the last time you wept in gratitude for what Jesus has done?”
  • An honest and gospel-centric view of sin in the individual’s life; a maturity in identification, confession and repentance of sin rather than a religious approach of minimizing or rationalizing sin.
  • A candid look at the marriage and family of the individual, focusing on questions about conflict and resolution, as well as healthy patterns of intentional pastoring and discipling of the spouse and children. For a husband, a focus on their leadership at home. For his wife, a look at her attitude of submission, a pattern of supporting his calling both inside and outside the home, and unity about the potential job opportunity. When we bring someone into the family by hiring them, we also bring their spouse into the family.
  • Honest assessments from previous employers regarding financial responsibility and interpersonal conflict.

These are simply snapshots of things we’ve found useful in assessment, and there is far more that could be used to assess character.

What have you found to be helpful in searching out the character of a candidate?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve focused on staffing in the local church.  This series will focus primarily on assessing candidates who emerge for potential roles on your team.  There are four primary areas of assessment that are crucial in assessing someone for a position on our staff:

  1. Calling
  2. Character
  3. Capacity/Competency
  4. Culture/Compatibility

This series will provide understanding and tools associated with how we assess these individual areas.

—–

Assessing Calling

Calling is a difficult thing to nail down, but it is the most fundamental question to answer when it comes to staffing.  I’ve written previously on some ideas related to calling here, but historically calling is broken down into three areas:

  • Internal Desire
  • External Conformation
  • Providential Opportunity
Tim Keller’s article at The Resurgence is a very helpful resource on the topic.

Two Questions

When it comes to staffing and calling, I think there are two crucial questions that we are attempting to answer:

  1. Is the candidate convinced of their calling to participate in the mission of God with your community?
  2. Is your community convinced of the calling of this individual to join your team?

Prayer is absolutely vital to answering those questions well, both for the candidate and the team doing the hiring.  The candidate must commit to prayerfully seeking the Lord to discern a calling, and the team must prayerfully go to the Lord to see if this is God’s provision for them.

In addition to prayer, I have found there are some helpful questions to ask when it comes to discernment on both sides.

The Candidate and Calling

For the individual to assess their calling, I have found these questions to be immensely helpful:

  • Would you worship with us and participate in our mission if you didn’t receive a paycheck?
  • Do you enjoy and trust the community and leadership that is already present?
  • Do you think the opportunity matches the gifts and skills that God has graciously given to you?
  • Can you support your family?
  • What will you do (or how will you engage through our church) if you don’t get this job?
Part of hiring well is ensuring the candidate has the opportunity to answer those questions with sufficient clarity.  I view the process of interviewing as an opportunity to provide an individual the  means to discern their calling, and consider it a joy to do so.  This helps me to adopt the posture of servanthood rather than critique in any dialogue I am having with a potential candidate, and allows them to thoughtfully and prayerfully.

The Current Team and Calling

If you are in the position of assessing and hiring candidates, the most important question you must answer is “do I believe God is calling this person to join our team?”.  Without being convinced of this, you will only be bought into the individual on a performance basis, rather than sticking through difficulties that are required to actually develop the person.

All of the assessments you do in character, competency and culture are aimed at helping you answer this question, but primarily this is the question you must answer with certainty.  If you’re going to ask someone to leave their previous calling behind, you had better be sure that God is moving and calling that person to be a part of your team!

Discerning Calling is Difficult

I would be remiss not to say that the only surefire guarantee of calling is found in the explicit words of God contained in Scripture.  In the Word we find God’s clear calling to make disciples for His glory, to love and serve Christ’s bride, and to worship God with all of our lives.  When it comes to hiring, I have found it is crucial to recognize that those must be the main priority of anyone’s life, and the questions of when, where and how those are pursued are always secondary.

Finally, the process of discerning calling requires a good deal of trust in God’s providence.  No assessment you can do, no interview you conduct, no research of experience will ever fully answer all the questions you have.  When I move forward with a candidate, I am trusting in God’s providence that through His word, the Christian community, and the perceived needs of the mission, I have a sufficient confirmation of His calling.

How do you think the idea of “calling” plays into staffing?

Verge 2014

March 24, 2014 — Leave a comment

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This week we begin our yearly Verge Conference at The Austin Stone.  For me, it is a chance to process through the past year as we pursue Christ and His mission, and connect with others who are doing the same.

If you are joining us in Austin, I’d love to connect with you!  You can always contact me here.

If you aren’t able to come, I’d encourage you to live stream some of the conference:

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Lastly, in my talk for this year, I’m going to continue from one that I gave in 2012.  I’d encourage you to watch it so that my talk this year will have more context:

I pray this conference is a blessing to all who participate!

After understanding your core philosophical convictions, building a healthy staff team requires an interview and hiring process.  At The Austin Stone, we have a process of candidacy, interviewing, assessment and hiring:

  1. Do We Need To Hire?
  2. What Role Are You Trying To Fill?
  3. Identifying Candidates for Your Team
  4. Recruiting Candidates for Your Team
I pray these posts are helpful to those of you hiring people, and those of you hoping to be hired!

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Recruiting Candidates

The following are the places to look for candidates, ordered according to priority and likelihood of finding a match:

  1. Internal to the church
  2. Direct relationship to our team (Friends)
  3. One relationships removed from our team (Friends of friends)
  4. Unsolicited or unknown candidates

Briefly, I will highlight the opportunities and possible difficulties of candidates from each area.

Internal Candidates

In an ideal world, we would always have someone ready to be hired for a position who has been developed internally in our churches.  Internal candidates are a symptom of a healthy culture of leadership development and are most often the most consistent with the DNA of the church.

With respect to hiring internally, there are several observations that I have made.  First, there is both a pro and a con with an internal candidate in that you typically know both their strengths and weaknesses very well.  In a hiring process, I have found that most people tend to weight the weaknesses of an internal candidate more heavily, and look more favorably on an external candidate.  Most people are predisposed to look favorably and hopefully on the unknown, so ensure that you take this into account if you are comparing two candidates.

Pros on Hiring Internally

  • Candidates have a much higher of likelihood of having the culture you are looking for
  • Preexisting relationships and community can make for a seamless transition in community
  • Typically you know what to expect with the individual

Cons on Hiring Internally

  • Because of a relationship, you may have a tendency to overreach on a candidate without the requisite skills or capacity you want
  • Assumed knowledge of the culture can often lead to conflict

Direct Relationships

This kind of hire has been the best pipeline for high-capacity, strong culture fit individuals who can contribute to the team right away.

Pros on Hiring External Direct Relationships

  • The preexisting relationship sets a good tone for culture fit
  • Higher likelihood of high capacity individuals with experience
  • Outside experience can contribute helpful knowledge and culture to your team

Cons on Hiring External Direct Relationships

  • Depending on the dynamic of the relationship, it can be difficult to cultivate an employee/employer dynamic
  • A possibility of unmet expectations based on the candidates understanding of the organization

Friends of Friends

This pool of people is most often tapped for most organizations.  Candidates are recommended based on knowledge of your organization and the candidate from another person.

Pros on Hiring Friends of Friends

  • The preexisting relationship sets a good tone for culture fit
  • Higher likelihood of high capacity individuals
  • Outside experience can contribute helpful knowledge and culture to your team

Cons on Hiring Friends of Friends

  • Depending on the dynamic of the relationship, it can be difficult to cultivate an employee/employer dynamic
  • It can be tempting to not fully explore the area of culture fit, making assumptions in this area based on the word of the outside recommender.

Unknown Candidates

Unknown candidates are interesting, because they are completely unknown quantities.  For the optimist, and unknown candidate has all the potential in the world, but for a pessimist, almost no potential.  Regardless of which way you see the fullness of the glass, these kinds of candidates present some interesting opportunities and challenges.

Pros on Unknown Candidates

  • A distinct possibility of a high capacity candidate emerging
  • If the role is well defined, there is a higher likelihood for expectation match
  • Outside experience can contribute helpful knowledge and culture to your team

Cons on Unknown Candidates

  • Unknown candidates carry a great risk when it comes to culture fit
  • A possibility of a person becoming a “hired hand” rather than a shepherd of the church

What else would you add to this list?

After understanding your core philosophical convictions, building a healthy staff team requires an interview and hiring process.  At The Austin Stone, we have a process of candidacy, interviewing, assessment and hiring:

  1. Do We Need To Hire?
  2. What Role Are You Trying To Fill?
  3. Identifying Candidates for Your Team
  4. Recruiting Candidates for Your Team
I pray these posts are helpful to those of you hiring people, and those of you hoping to be hired!

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Identifying Candidates

After understanding yourself and the role, the next step in building a staff team is to begin looking for individuals who might fit into your culture. Before we get into the details of searching, first let me highlight a few convictions about identifying candidates.

Beginning with Prayer

If there is one thing that I have learned in hiring people, it is that God is absolutely sovereign and the best thing we can do is pray for Him to act.  If you believe that you are in a place of needing to hire, begin to beg God that He would confirm that clearly by providing the called, qualified and gifted individual to join your team in that role.

Our Heavenly Father knows exactly what we need, love to give His children good gifts, and delights when we ask Him.  Additionally, being committed to prayer throughout the process will keep your firmly resolved in patiently waiting upon the Lord, rather than simply filling a role out of necessity or obligation.  Some of the most difficult times in leadership have come from being obedient to wait upon the Lord, but the team He has assembled is far better than any of my meager human efforts.

Always Looking for Good People

Adopting a posture of waiting is crucial, but so too is proactively pursuing opportunities the Lord may be putting in front of you.  I never want to miss a moment the Lord might be working, so I try to be diligently alert to His provision in circumstances and relationships.  Practically, I do this in two ways.

First, if someone is searching for a job and wants to talk to me, I try my absolute hardest to never say no.  Quite simply, I want to trust in God’s providence that the circumstance of someone reaching out to me may just be God’s nudging to consider this person.  At the very worst, I’ve been given an opportunity to encourage a brother or sister in Christ and provide some clarity in their calling, even if they would not be a good fit.

Second, regardless of available roles, we are always identifying candidates that would make a good fit for our team internally and outside our church community.  When you are on the lookout for candidates before a position is open, you typically have a good running list of people before the search ever begins.

Relationships Matter

Because we place such a high priority on operating as a family together, we highly value a prior relationship with a candidate and place a strong preference on knowing an individual over time.  Although you may receive an impressive resume, we’ve found that relationships matter far more with respect to long term performance and health.

Some folks would disagree with me on this particular issue, saying that I am limiting my available options.  While I would not discount a cold-call, a random resume, or a person I don’t know that is serving somewhere else, I have to focus my search somewhere.  The relationships that God has given me and my team, while small relative to the “open market”, represent the best possible place to search for those individuals who might fit well.  Secondly, those people we know have a much higher likelihood of joining our team for the sake of calling and culture, rather than a simple progression in their career.

When it comes to identifying candidates for positions, what have you found to be helpful to consider?